5 Stages to Quitting

The Stages of Change

Smokers generally go through five successive stages in the process of quitting, each involving different issues and challenges.

1. Pre-contemplation (not thinking about quitting)
People who are at this stage are not really thinking about quitting, and if challenged, will probably defend their smoking behaviour. They may be discouraged about previous attempts to quit or believe they're too addicted to ever stop smoking. These smokers are not likely to be receptive to messages about the health benefits of quitting. But at some point, the great majority of "pre-contemplators" begin thinking about quitting.

2. Contemplation (thinking about quitting but not ready to quit)
During this stage, smokers are considering quitting sometime in the near future (probably six months or less). They are more aware of the personal consequences and consider smoking a problem that needs resolution. Consequently, they're more open to receiving information about smoking and identifying the barriers that prevent them from quitting.

3. Preparation (getting ready to quit)
In the preparation stage, smokers have made the decision to quit and are getting ready to stop smoking. They see the "cons" of smoking as outweighing the "pros" and are taking small steps towards quitting. For example, in their initial planning phases, they may be smoking fewer cigarettes. They make statements such as "This is serious... something has to change" and may actually set a date to quit smoking.

4. Action (quitting)
In this stage, people are actively trying to stop smoking, perhaps using short-term rewards to keep themselves motivated and often turning to family, friends and others for support. They mentally review their commitment to themselves and firm-up action plans to deal with both personal and external pressures that could lead to slips. This stage, generally lasting up to six months, is the period during which smokers need the most help and support.

5. Maintenance (remaining a non-smoker)
Former smokers in the maintenance stage have learned to anticipate and handle temptations to smoke and are able to use new ways of coping with stress, boredom and social pressures that had been part of their "smoker's identity." Although they may slip and have a cigarette, they try to learn from the slip so it doesn't happen again. This helps to give them a stronger sense of control and the ability to stay smokefree.

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